Union Pacific Foundation: Grants for Visual Arts

OVERVIEW: Union Pacific Foundation is the philanthropic arm of Union Pacific Corporation and Union Pacific Railroad. It prioritizes improving and enriching health, human services, and the overall quality of life for the regions on the Union Pacific railway line.

IP TAKE: Union Pacific Foundation emphasizes the arts through its directive to “improve and enrich the general quality of life in the community.” Funding for visual arts is a primary expression of its arts support. However, grant seekers must be in a community that is “reasonably close” to its railroad line.

PROFILE: Originally established in 1959, Union Pacific Foundation is the philanthropic arm of Union Pacific Corporation and Union Pacific Railroad. The foundation seeks “build safe, prosperous, and vibrant communities by investing in high-quality nonprofits ad programs in the cities and towns” where it has a presence. It supports visual arts funding through its Community-Based Grant Program.

Geographically, Union Pacific serves a lot of “communities,” more than 50 cities/regions across the U.S. Grant seekers located in or west of the vertical geographic line of Milwaukee-Little Rock-New Orleans are likely to be on Union Pacific’s radar. Its system map is useful here.

The foundation’s Community-Based Grant Program subdivides its focus into “Community and Civic” and “Health and Human Services.” The foundation’s support of the arts falls under the former.

Union Pacific Foundation seeks to promote “program effectiveness,” and therefore prefers to fund capacity building, which it describes as “helping new or existing programs reach more people or reach them effectively.” This definition and prioritization opens up a lot of opportunity for a visual arts organization or program seeking support.

By Union Pacific Foundation’s own assessment, the average grant amount for its recipients over the past few years is “less then $10,000.” This is true, but there is also the possibility for far more significant amounts if the partnership is right.

Past grantees in visual arts reflect this range in dollar amount and distribution across its geographic areas of focus: $360,000 to the Durham Museum (Omaha, NE); $50,000 to the Joslyn Art Museum (Omaha, NE); $5,000 to Webster Arts (Webster Groves, MO); $5,000 to the Museum of Latin America (Long Beach, CA); $5,000 to The Chinati Foundation (Marfa, TX); $5,000 to the Arts & Cultural Foundation of Antioch (Antioch, CA); $5,000 to the West Valley Arts Council (Surprise, AZ); $5,000 to the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities (New Orleans, LA); $5,000 to Self-Help Graphics & Art (Los Angeles, CA); $3,000 to the Arkansas Arts Center Foundation (Little Rock, AR); $3,000 to Arts Benecia (Benecia, CA); $2,500 to the Hays Arts Council (Hays, KS); $1,000 Pendleton Center for the Arts (Pendleton, OR).

Applications are an open, online process with a mid-August deadline. Union Pacific Foundation points out that it funds its grants with operating profits from its corporate side, not through an endowment, so this might also be a reminder for grant seekers to consider using a train for their next travel adventure.

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